There was a tap on the door. “Come in?” I wasn’t sure I should be telling him to enter in an authoritative voice, after all it was his house.
“I just wanted to find out if you needed a towel.”
“No thank you. I brought mine.” I placed a shower cap over my head and tucked my stray twists under it. “Thank you for giving me your bed again. I hope you won’t be too cold in the living room?”
“No, I have a pull out sofa, it’ll be fine.” He paused and adjusted his glasses. “Well, good night then. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night. Try not to sneak in while I’m sleeping.” He rolled his eyes.
Sleeping in the bed was strange. The sheets were fresh and clean but there was an under layer of…man that filled my nostrils each time I took a breath. It was not unpleasant. Reassuring somehow. And yet I could not relax. The moonlight from the French doors flooded the room and the shrubbery cast long shadows over the bed. I couldn’t see the mini gargoyle from earlier in the day but I knew it was there. I imagined it coming to life, crunching on the gravel in the narrow back garden of the basement flat. I hoped the French doors were locked properly. I turned my mind to my host.
He was kind. We knew we were going to be back late from a Young Nigerians event so he had offered me his place that I wouldn’t have the long, expensive journey back to my place in the early hours of a London winter. I had packed a small knapsack with my things but I still made sure not to have too much of a presence, to keep myself as small as possible. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I mean, he was my friend, but there was no need to draw attention to the fact that I was female. In my nightgown. In his bed. In his basement flat. I had an idea and scrabbled out of bed.
The door had no lock.
With the gargoyle outside one door and my host behind the other, it was like I was in a nightmarish episode of Blind Date. There was a good chance I would either be mauled or shagged, which in the case of a lot of Nigerian – Igbo – men, added up to the same thing. Savaged.
I burrowed deeper into the bed, cocooning myself tightly in the duvet. I was reminded of the story an ex-boyfriend had told me of the girl who had spent the night with his friend, an Igbo man who was ‘toasting’ her, on the condition that he not touch her during the night.
“Ooooh.” She complained when he reached over to run his hands over her body.
“Sorry….sorry.” He withdrew and turned over. Soon he was snoring again. She went back to sleep. It happened a second time. The third time she said ‘Ooooh’, he said “Sorry now. I can’t help myself, you’re so beautiful.”
“But you promised!” She wailed. She didn’t leave his room the same way she came in.
I consoled myself with the thought that at least my host and I weren’t in the same room or on the same bed. That was a start. Still, I couldn’t sleep. Every noise startled me. By the time his projector clock flashed five-thirty AM with its red beam, I was frazzled from imagining the worst. A lot of Igbo men didn’t believe men and women could just be friends after all; would he risk our friendship for one night of action? And what would I do? Was his friendship that important anyway?
It was eight o’clock when I finally woke up. The house was too quiet. I flashed my eyes around the room and tested my limbs to see if anything had changed…then I laughed at myself for being so stupid. He wasn’t a rapist after all.
There was another tap on the door. “I heard you moving around.” He looked at me and a frown creased his brow. “You look…did you sleep well?” he asked.
“No, not really.”
“Why not? Was the bed too hard for you?”
“No, it was fine…I just…you’re going to think this is silly but..” I told him my fears. I made light of my earlier issues by laughing. By the time I had finished, the sleep was no longer lurking around his eyes. He stood to his full six foot plus height, arms folded in front of his chest.
“I think that says more of you than it does of me.” He looked angry. “I will not take what I am not offered, that is called ‘maturity’. What the hell kind of men have you been dating?”